What Do Gophers Eat? (What Plants Are Safe?)

Gophers are a common sight in many backyards across North America. These furry creatures may look cute and cuddly, but they can be a nuisance when they start digging up your garden!

Gophers are herbivores and eat grass, roots, vegetables, and fruits most of the time. However, they may eat insects, nuts, and mushrooms from time to time when food is scarce!

Gophers Eating!
Gophers Eating!

Gophers are herbivores, which means that they only eat plants. In this article, we will discuss the general diet of gophers and some tips on how to prevent them from invading your backyard.

What do gophers eat in my backyard?

Gophers love to eat a variety of plants that are grown in most North American backyards, including grasses, clover, fruits, roots of plants and trees, and vegetables.

They also enjoy eating insects they encounter in their tunnels, such as ants and beetles. Gophers are not very selective when it comes to their food choices, and will eat just about any plant in your garden.

If you have a backyard or live in an area with lots of trees, there is a good chance that gophers will start eating your plants. Gophers are especially attracted to yards that have a lot of vegetables or fruit trees.

If you notice gophers in your yard, try to remove any food sources that may be attracting them. You can also try to install a fence around your garden to keep the gophers out.

What kind of fruits do gophers eat?

Gophers love the sweetness and high energy content of fruits, but they are not a natural part of their diets. They most often eat grasses, seeds, roots and vegetables.

However, gophers have been observed to eat different fruits cultivated by humans. These include:

  •  Apples
  •  Blueberries
  •  Cherries
  • Blackberries
  •  Grapes
  •  Melons
  •  Pears
  •  Peaches (they love them!)
  • Oranges
  • Plums
  • Strawberries

What kind of vegetables do gophers eat?

Gophers will often find their way to your vegetable garden and feed on some of your delicious vegetables. They particularly like tubers and root vegetables, but will also gladly eat dark leafy greens like cabbage and kale!

Here is a list of the vegetables that gophers enjoy the most:

  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Zuccinni
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Red peppers (not hot ones!)
  • Green beans
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Potatoes
  • Spinach
  • Squash
  • Tomatoes

As you can see they really love the hearty leafy kale and cabbage vegetables that are full of vitamins and nutrients to help them survive through the long winter.

The destruction of some of these vegetables by gophers is so prominent a problem for many yard owners, that I have dedicated separate articles to those:

I have written much more about the vegetables eaten by gophers here. And how to keep them away!

What do gophers eat in the grass?

You will often see gophers roaming around in tall grass, this is partly to hide from humans and predators, but also because they love to eat grass and the many flowers and insects that may be present there.

Gophers also enjoy eating the shorter grass in your yard. If you have a lot of tall grass or plants in your yard, gophers may start to nibble on them.

You can try to remove any tall grass or plants from your yard to discourage gophers from coming to your yard.

Gophers also like to dig their tunnel openings in tall grasses and in gardens. This helps them hide and reach their food easily without exiting their tunnels for too long!

If you have problems with gophers, removing tall grass is a good way to discourage them from entering your yard. Read more about how to keep gophers and gophers away here!

What do gophers eat in the spring?

In early spring, when just awaken from hibernation, there are not many plants for gophers to eat. Therefore they primarily eat tubers, insects, and bark.

In the later spring, gophers eat a variety of plants, including flowers, fruits, and vegetables. Some of their favorite springtime snacks include dandelions, clover, grasses, and various tree buds. Gophers are also known to eat mushrooms in the springtime.

What do gophers eat in the summer?

In the summer, gophers will eat fruits and vegetables. Some of their favorite summer snacks include blueberries, pears, applesauce, corn, and green beans.

Gophers are also known to eat insects in the summertime.

What do gophers eat in the fall?

In the fall, gophers will eat a variety of plants, including fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Some of their favorite fall snacks include acorns, walnuts, and beechnuts. Gophers are also known to eat mushrooms in the fall time.

What do gophers eat in the winter?

In winter, gophers are much less active than in the summer and fall and they will eat whatever food they can find, which is sparse at that time of year.

They may eat insects, mushrooms, nuts, roots, and small animals as well if they can find them.

If you are interested, I have written a whole article on the diet of baby gophers here!

What attracts gophers to your yard?

Knowing what gophers are attracted to in a yard can also help you to keep them away if you wish to.

There are a number of ways that you can attract gophers to your yard. One way is to provide them with a food source, such as a garden or a pile of leaves. You can also try to install a shelter for them, such as a den or a tree stump.

What Attracts Gophers To Your backyard
A water source and easy food sources will all attract gophers! However, the most attractive part of a yard is likely to be the grass-filled lawn itself!

Gophers also like to have access to water and soft soil to dig in.

Gophers will also visit yards that have a lot of tall grass or plants, so you can try to remove any vegetation from your yard.

If you live in an area with cold winters, gophers may also be attracted to your yard if you have a heated shelter.

Should I feed a wild gopher?

It is not recommended to feed wild gophers, as this can make them become dependent on humans for food. If you start feeding a wild gopher, it may become aggressive toward humans if it doesn’t receive food.

hand teasing a threatening gopher

Do gophers eat any human foods?

Yes, they will eat human leftovers if fallen out of the garbage bin or are left outside the house for some other reason.

Gophers may eat peanuts, bread, snacks like chips and other nuts, or even candies. However, these foods are not good for them and they know that.

But they will much rather raid your garden and eat the vegetables you have planted.

What will gophers not eat?

Gophers will usually not eat any other type of larger animal. This means that you do not have to worry about gophers eating your pets or chickens.

However, be vary the gophers may bite and spread disease if threatened!

Otherwise, gophers are not very selective when it comes to their food choices, and will eat just about anything they can find.

This means that they will not hesitate to eat flowers, fruits, vegetables, or grass in your yard. Gophers are even known to eat the bark and roots of trees.

They do not eat all types of flowers though, so lets have a look at which ones are safe for you to plan in your yard!

What flowers will gophers not eat?

Although gophers eat most garden flowers, there are some flower species that you can safely plant in your gopher-infested yard!

Some strongly scented flowers or poisonous plants are usually not eaten by gophers, for example:

  1. Bleeding Heart
  2. Pulmonaria
  3. Coleus
  4. Lavender
  5. Thyme
  6. Blue Salvia
  7. Sedum
  8. Russian Sage
  9. Phlox
  10. Lamium
  11. Lambs Ears
  12. Nicotiana
  13. Euphorbia
  14. Astilbe
  15. Ageratum
  16. Coralbells
  17. Catmint
  18. Mums
  19. Yarrow
  20. Hardy Geraniums
  21. Plumbago
  22. Agastache
  23. Wax Begonias
  24. Goldenrod
  25. Ferns
  26. Gaillardia
  27. Salvia
  28. Hosta
  29. Threadleaf Coreopsis
  30. Angelonia
  31. Foamflowers
  32. Amsonia
  33. Iris
  34. Daylilies
  35. Ginger
  36. Helleborus
  37. Beebalm
  38. Alyssum
  39. Geraniums
  40. Perilla And Vinca
  41. Barrenwort
  42. Monkshood
  43. Cleome

If you are more interested in the types of flowers that gophers DO eat, then take a look at my article on gophers’ flower appetite here:

Read more about the flowers that gophers eat here!

What vegetables will gophers not eat?

Unfortunately, all vegetables that humans eat will be attractive to gophers. They may, however, prefer some over others. Some of the vegetables that gophers are less interested in are:

  • Chili peppers (Too hot for them!)
  • Ordinary green peppers
  • Ginger
  • Potatoes (especially the plant)
  • Onions
  • Leeks
  • Garlic (the actual cloves)

Gophers don’t like the strong taste of these vegetables, and they prefer more watery and nutrient-filled ones like fruits, cabbage, and kale.

Yes, they do! Read more by clicking on the image.

Read more about how to keep gophers and gophers away from your vegetable garden here!

How do you prevent a gopher from invading your backyard?

If you have a backyard with a vegetable garden or live in an area with lots of trees, there is a good chance that gophers will start eating your plants.

They will also love whatever food items you put out like the seeds of bird feeders and pet food.

This means that your vegetable garden is a preferred hideout for them because of the variety of vegetables, pet food, and plants available. However, although gophers prefer root vegetables, they do mostly eat more easily accessible foods such as grass!

Considering that gophers are mostly nocturnal, they like to spend most of their daytime underground and will come out to forage at night.

As they do not see well, they rely heavily on their smell to find food. So strongly smelling food items attract them more than more subtle ones!  

Also, if you have chickens or other animals, they will smell them from afar and associate them with livable conditions and food.

A garden pond or a pool is also a plus for gophers, as it means better access to fresh drinking water. And they might even go for a swim!

A title image of gopher swimming
See my post on gophers’ aquatic endeavors here!

A watering sprinkler system, on the other hand, will often deter gophers as they do not like being out in the rain and it may collapse their tunnels.

The more foliage you have in your garden, the greater the likelihood that gophers will smell it and make your yard their home. Gophers continually look for new locations to establish a home base in their quest for food.

Grazing the lawn with other clover and grass is not uncommon for them and they will easily smell and be attracted to most of your garden flowers.

Gophers are especially attracted to gardens that have a lot of vegetables or fruit trees.

If you notice gophers in your yard, try to remove any food sources that may be attracting them. You can also try to install a fence around your garden to keep the gophers out.

However, a fence has to go deep (3-4 feet below!) as gophers will otherwise dig under!

There are several things you can do to prevent a gopher from invading your backyard. Another option is to use these solar-powered ultrasonic emitters.

Make sure the fence is at least six feet high, as gophers are good climbers. You can also use deterrents, such as predator urine or ammonia, to keep gophers away from your property.

Finally, be sure to remove any food sources that may attract gophers, such as pet food or bird feeders.

Read more about how to keep gophers and groundhogs away from your yard here!

Will a gopher attack me for food?

No, a gopher is most likely not going to attack you, but they will defend themselves if they feel threatened.

Hand Keeping gopher away
Don’t get too close to an angry gopher as they may bite! But usually, they are just afraid of you.

They may even bite you, but it happens very rarely as they usually run away unless you corner them up.

They are usually not aggressive, but you should still be careful when approaching them as they may bite or scratch you, which may transfer diseases such as rabies, salmonella, or plague bacteria.

FAQs about the gopher diet

If you are interested in other food items that gophers might eat in your yard, here is a list and explanation of some of the most important ones!

Do gophers eat grass?

Yes. Gophers enjoy eating the grass in your yard. They eat a variety of different grasses, so it is difficult to keep them from your yard altogether.

However, some strongly scented flowers or poisonous plants are usually not eaten by gophers, so these can be interplanted to keep them somewhat at bay.

Do gophers eat kale and cabbage?

Yes. Gophers will eat just about anything they can find, including cabbage and kale. They love digging under the cabbage and eating them from below!

Do gophers eat broccoli?

Yes. Gophers do eat broccoli, but they prefer other vegetables that are easier to digest. Broccoli is a part of the “Brassicaceae” family and even though it contains proteins, vitamins, minerals, and dietary fibers.

Too many fibers require a lot of energy for the gopher to digest, whereas eating fruits or tubers is more energy-efficient so gophers usually prefer these.

Do gophers eat broccoli stems?

Yes. as for broccoli stems, gophers will eat them if they are available. however, the majority of their diet comes from other parts of the broccoli plant that are easier to digest.

Do gophers eat cucumbers?

Yes, gophers eat cucumbers. They will eat it during any time of year, but they tend to prefer them more in the summer due to the hotter temperatures.

Gophers will eat cucumber plants, but they have no preference whether it be a plant in the ground or in a pot. They will eat the leaves and fruit of the plants.

Do gophers eat spinach?

Yes, gophers enjoy eating spinach. It is one of the vegetables that humans eat, so it is naturally appealing to these animals as well.

Do gophers eat carrots?

Gophers eat a variety of root vegetables, which they enjoy almost as much as fruits. Some of their favorite root vegetables are carrots, potatoes, and beets.

Do gophers eat potatoes?

Yes, gophers eat potatoes. They will dig up the potatoes in your garden and take them back to their burrow to eat. They do, however, not enjoy eating the potatoes plant as it is of the toxic nightshade family.

Do gophers eat sweet potatoes?

Yes! Gophers love sweet potatoes as they are more nutritious than ordinary potatoes. They often dig underneath the sweet potato plants and eat them from below.

Do gophers eat corn?

Whereas gophers can eat corn, they are not big fans of it, as they are hard to reach and the plant is for some reason not appealing to them.

Do gophers eat lettuce?

Yes, gophers will eat lettuce, but they prefer dark, leafy greens that are higher in nutrients or fruits that have more sugar and thus energy for the gopher to store when hibernating in winter.

Do gophers eat pumpkins?

Yes, it is likely that gophers will eat pumpkins, as they like to eat fruits or tubers and pumpkins are somewhat in between with their sweetness and hard texture.

Do gophers eat celery?

Yes, gophers will eat celery. It is one of the vegetables they like to consume, but it is not their favorite.

Groundhog eating Vegetables

Do gophers eat pepper plants?

No, gophers do not generally eat pepper plants. They are not fans of spicy foods and even nonspicy peppers do not appeal to them, but they will eat them if nothing else is availible.

Do gophers eat asparagus?

No, gophers do not generally eat asparagus. It is a difficult vegetable to digest and they would rather consume other vegetables that are easier to digest and have more nutritional value.

Do gophers eat bird seeds?

Yes, gophers love to eat bird seeds. They will commonly raid the bird feeder in your backyard and steal all the food that is meant for the birds.

Do gophers eat cat food?

Sometimes yes, however, gophers do not generally eat cat food as it is heavy on meat. As they do not generally eat meat they are not attracted much to catfood, although they will taste it if the cat or its owner is not nearby!

Do gophers eat dog food?

Sometimes yes, however, gophers do not generally eat dog food as it is heavy on meat. As meat is not part of their natural diet and they would not know what to do with it if they did eat it.

Do gophers eat sunflower seeds?

Yes! Gophers love to eat sunflower seeds. They will commonly raid the bird feeder in your backyard and steal all the food, including sunflower seeds.

Do gophers eat nuts?

Yes, gophers love to eat nuts such as peanuts, walnuts, or hazelnuts. They will commonly find nuts under trees in the fall to prepare for their hibernation. However, they do also raid the bird feeder in your backyard and steal peanuts!

Do gophers eat roots?

Yes, gophers eat a variety of roots and root vegetables, which they enjoy almost as much as fruits. Some of their favorite root vegetables are carrots, potatoes, and beets.

Just like groundhogs, they have strong teeth to chew through wooden items and roots!

They may also eat the roots of trees and bushes that they encounter when digging through your yard!

Do gophers eat wood?

No, they are not beavers! Whereas they may chew and even ingest some wood, they do not digest it well.

However, there is a reason they are also called woodchucks and they can be seen eating bark or young trees in early spring when the sap is running and insects are hiding underneath!